When Rudy was young, he had one simple dream,
To play on the great Notre Dame football team,
But small as he was, people doubted his scheme
And thought the lad unrealistic.
He works at a steel mill to save for tuition,
Encouraged by one friend to scorn opposition.
When tragedy strikes, he appeals for admission,
Perhaps a bit too optimistic.
With help from a priest, he attends Holy Cross,
A close junior college, and gathers no moss.
He maintains the football field with his kind boss
And makes his ambitions well-known.
Befriending a tutor, his course grades get better,
And through three long years, he remains a go-getter
Until he receives that improbable letter
And transfers as Notre Dame’s own.
He tries out for football and shows little skill
But makes up for it with his heart and his will.
Each time he is tackled, he rises up still,
And merits the coach’s respect.
He gets on the prep team but can’t play a bit.
He can’t even dress for the sidelines and sit.
When Coach is replaced, Rudy’s tempted to quit,
But sage advice helps him reflect.
He doesn’t give up, and the players proclaim
That Rudy should dress for the season’s last game.
So with family there cheering for Notre Dame,
He runs on the field with the team.
As they play Georgia Tech, Rudy’s friends gain a lead,
But Rudy sits out till their chants intercede.
At last, Rudy plays and is lauded indeed
For chasing his difficult dream.

Rudy is the ultimate underdog story. With its determined and likable hero, real-life drama, stirring Jerry Goldsmith score, and excellent acting, it reaches heights of inspiration most films only dream about. Just as Rudy was born to wear that Notre Dame jacket, Sean Astin was born to play Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger. His understated but tenacious performance gives Rudy the necessary appeal to make the audience share both his grief over setbacks and his excitement for successes. It’s a role that, I think, deserved an Oscar nomination.

So many other inspirational sports films are about whipping a team into shape to win a big game or a championship at the last moment. Here, though, it’s all about one character, the titular Rudy. He’s not an underachieving athlete who needs to grasp his own potential or a troubled all-star who must overcome a debilitating trauma; rather, it’s about a simple dreamer, someone who knows his limitations but isn’t afraid to chase his goals despite them. He admirably jumps up after being tackled repeatedly, devotes constant time and effort, and exhibits such an earnest hunger for his Notre Dame aspirations that the final realization of his dream is eminently satisfying and brought my VC to tears.

Ned Beatty plays Rudy’s Fighting Irish-loving father, whose pride at the end is palpable, and Jon Favreau has an amiable debut as Rudy’s tutor friend, who unfortunately spews the majority of the film’s profanity. Charles S. Dutton also brings some benevolent experience as the stadium groundskeeper Fortune, who gives an extra punch of tear fodder in the finale.

The film was AFI’s 54th most inspiring movie on their 2006 Cheers list, but I believe it should have been much higher. How can you not smile when someone’s efforts are rewarded so stirringly? Yet it’s also realistic; Rudy doesn’t turn into a professional quarterback and is only played because Notre Dame had nothing to lose, but it’s the dream to which his whole life was leading. Some might say that Rudy’s behavior borders on obsessive or that his brief moment of glory wasn’t worth it, but for anyone who has had a dream, Rudy serves as the culmination of hopes and hard work, a cheer-worthy crowd-pleaser that reminds us that dreams can come true.

Best line: (Father Cavanaugh, when Rudy asks him for further help) “Son, in thirty-five years of religious study, I have only come up with two hard, incontrovertible facts: there is a God, and I’m not Him.”

Artistry: 9
Characters/Actors: 10
Entertainment: 10
Visual Effects: N/A
Originality: 8
Watchability: 9
Other (language): -1
TOTAL: 45 out of 60

Next: #172 – Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

© 2014 S. G. Liput

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